“It is an evolutionary step as students are being brought to the forefront of opinion-sharing from the comfort of their homes. The app’s utility though will be tested with time,” says psychiatrist Jitendra Nagpal, programme director, Expression India initiative.
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While there is no replacement for face-to-face interaction, the app can be part of a multi-modal approach in the digital era. For continued communication of care and compassion, we need more such platforms to create a preventive modality and destigmatise mental health issues in a supportive ecosystem,” adds Nagpal.
“Psychological counselling is a flagship programme of CBSE which was introduced in1998. Over the years, the board has scaled up the facilities and this app is the latest addition,” says Rama Sharma, head media & PR and project head, CBSE Counseling Program.
The app goes beyond the annual exam and post result counselling route, with features such as counselling via chat box, tips on mental health and well-being, CBSE rap songs, audio-visuals messages, Covid protocols and a compendium of courses after +2. “The intent is to help students who find themselves at the crossroads of childhood and adulthood as they seek answers to physical, emotional and cognitive changes,” Sharma adds.
Platforms to connect
The CISCE affiliated schools, on the other hand, have got children to vent their feelings through a COVID awareness campaign, says Vidya Guruprasad, principal, Ryan International School, Kundalahalli, Bangalore that provides a well-being forum conducted by teachers and counsellors for sessions on career options, stress management, online behaviour etc.
Engaging students in active interaction is a must due to lack of socialising and peer mingling, Guruprasad says, since the uncertainty of exams is taking a toll on their psyche. “We started counselling students right from the onset of the pandemic to prepare them for no-exam results and overcome the anxiety of performance. Students are now attuned to the idea that their school performance could be their final result if board exams get cancelled.”
Lifeskills in learning
The International Baccalaureate (IB) schools have a different take on the subject. They were given the flexibility of either doing traditional face to face exams or choosing a non-exam route. “As the pandemic in India spread, schools in India moved to a non-exam route. For the grade X Boards, students are taking a short 45-minute alternative assessment task from home with a pledge to answer honestly which has greatly eased the pressure and stress of formal exams,” says Shalini Advani, school director, Pathways School Noida.
She stresses the need to formally teach Approach to Learning (ATL) skills that focus on how to learn through planning and time management, collaboration, empathy, resilience and caring. “These lifeskills embedded in the ongoing curriculum have helped students amid the crisis.
Every single teacher, she adds, must become a counsellor and first reach out to students individually before alerting a counsellor to resolve the anxieties and stressors.”